Scream redefined the horror genre. With self-awareness and charm, Wes Craven took on thirty years of industry trends, and produced both a memorable slasher as well as one of horror’s most iconic villains; Ghostface. But, like its horror movie peers, it struggled to live up to its reputation in the many sequels that followed. Now, with the release of Scream (2022), it’s easy to see that only one film managed to capture the essence of what made Scream great. With its mystery, humour, and references, the rightful successor to Ghostface’s throne: Edgar Wright’s Hot Fuzz.
Set in a small rural English town called Sandford, Hot Fuzz is a 2007 buddy comedy movie written by Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg. The story follows the model cop Sgt Angel (Simon Pegg), who is reassigned to the sleepy town from the busy streets of London. Angel finds himself partnered up with action movie-loving nerd Danny (Nick Frost), and the two set out on a charming adventure to uphold the law. However, this 2000s movie turned out to be so much more than just your standard adrenaline fest. Instead, it dives into a mind-bending mystery with a hooded killer on the loose. Everyone in Sandford has a secret to hide, and everyone in the quiet community is a suspect.
Sounds pretty similar to good old Woodsboro, right? Well, if you need more convincing, Sandford is a small town, with a tight nit community, and essentially the entire movie is about figuring out who is the cold-blooded murder among their ranks. Basically, Hot Fuzz captures the essence of Scream – just recontextualised in a new setting, something no Scream sequel was brave enough to do, ever.
Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that the Scream sequels are bad movies; in fact, many hold a special place in my heart – especially the 2011 film Scream 4. However, let’s be honest, the Scream sequels repeated all of the same beats as the original. They all start with a woman being targeted by Ghostface, they all repeat the mystery of Sidney’s mom and Sidney’s legacy, before the killer is revealed.
Although it breaks my heart to admit it, the Scream sequels, while fun, never offer fresh personality or an exciting direction to Craven’s first masterpiece. And once the in-movie Stab films (the fictional Scream movies in the franchise) were introduced into the series in Scream 2, all the sequels became concerned with being self-parodies of Scream itself – staying contained and restricted by the original’s legacy.
So, let’s get into why Hot Fuzz, essentially a meta take on action movies, manages to revitalise Scream when the canon sequels couldn’t. Firstly, Hot Fuzz brings a memorable twist and a mystery killer to the cinematic table (well, killers). In 1996, Craven shocked us all by revealing that two teens were the serial killer plaguing Woodsboro, Billy Loomis and Stu Macher. It was a gasp-worthy moment for its time. However, this big moment of discovering the killer became less gasp-worthy with each sequel. The Ghostface reveal got less shocking, and the big twist, unfortunately, more predictable each time round.
Hot Fuzz, on the other hand, pulled the carpet out from under viewers by revealing that the hooded killer in its story wasn’t just one person, it wasn’t even two – no, it was the whole town. Much like Scream, this twist was a double whammy too. In Scream, there was an added layer of close knit betrayal as Sidney discovered that her boyfriend Billy wanted to kill her. Similarly, Hot Fuzz saw the seemingly harmless town’s chief police officer and Danny’s father come out as the ring leader of the hooded murderer group of Sandford.
It is a huge emotional blow, on top of an actual surprising revelation, which no Scream sequel has managed to pull off since the original. In short, in Hot Fuzz, you re-experience a genuine gasp. You are heavily invested in all the characters, and the twist hits especially different with all the dramatic inter-personal tension – just like the original Scream.
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The next point to discuss is the memorable killer in Hot Fuzz and the action movie’s horror worthiness compared to the Scream sequels. While the citizens of Sandford are no Ghostface, Hot Fuzz is playful enough to keep the design consistent and memorable, riffing on the horror cliché of a hooded menace with the townsfolk’s deadly costume design.
Similarly to Ghostface, they weren’t confined to any one method of murder, using the environment, like dilapidated church roofs and nearby weapons just such as a simple axe to commit their deadly acts for “the greater good”. So slasher fans, yes, this unofficial Scream sequel has enough bloody gore to keep all of us entertained.
But killer and twist aside, we haven’t even touched the meta-ness of Hot Fuzz that does Scream’s iconic self-aware commentary on horror movies proud. Hot Fuzz is full of self-aware action movie references: Point Break and Bad Boys 2 specifically. Just like Randy in Scream, the all-knowing horror fanatic that warned fellow teens about the dangers of horror film rules, Danny is Sgt Angel’s guide to the world of action he’s missed out on.
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Specifically, having that awareness and being able to let go is what gives him the tools he needs to survive and ultimately win the day. In Scream, we see scenes from John Carpenter’s 1978 classic Halloween, and the ‘80s movie Prom Night acted out in the film’s third act, and similarly, in Hot Fuzz, we see Bad Boys 2 recreated during the final shoot out in Sandford.
So, you can see Hot Fuzz lives up to the hype of Scream and everything that made it great, just by doing it its own way and making us laugh a lot more in the process. Sorry Scream sequels, but this entry in the cornetto trilogy just has you beat.